The Best Smartphone for the Road Warrior

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With so many different Android smartphone models on the market today, choosing which one to get can be a tough decision. In pondering the possibilities, you need to consider how you’ll be using the phone. Will you be leaning on it for hours or even days at a time while away from home or the office? Here, we’ll examine several solid alternatives for all of you who are “road warriors.” Then we’ll pick an overall winner.

A quad core processor and 4 gigs of RAM make for great spec sheets and gadget drool, but practical performance is essential for anyone who depends on a smartphone while on the go.

Battery life is king, for keeping you connected when you’re away from the electrical socket. So is reliability, so that you won’t be dealing with a broken or tempermental phone in the middle of a trip.

Certain other features — like an extra strong wireless signal or the ability to shrug off getting soaking wet — can turn a smartphone into a godsend when you’re out on the road.

In this article, an installment in TechnologyGuide’s “Working in the Cloud” series, we’ll drill down into three top smartphone models.

Samsung Galaxy S IV

The nearly brand spanking new GS4 packs in just about everything that a smartphone enthusiast could want: high-end specs, a huge screen, and lots of little tweaks and tricks like multi-window mode and eye-tracking capability.

It’s no wonder that this model is holding on to the booming popularity of its predecessors. The popularity of this phone also means that lots of add-ons and other options are out there for it.

You can find exactly the customizations that suit your style and your needs: just the right case, replacement batteries, desktop or car docks, whatever. Best of all, the phone is offered through nearly every carrier. No matter what your plan or preference, there’s probably a GS4 available for you.

Yet unfortunately, thanks in large part to the cramming in of all those features, the S4′s battery life leaves quite a bit to be desired. Even with a slightly larger than average 2000 mAh cell, performance is middling at best. This is not the sort of thing you want to deal with when you might be away from a charger for a while.

The battery is removable, so you can opt to either carry a fully charged spare, or even to add a larger aftermarket battery. Third-party options can be found going all the way past 5000 mAh, which would turn the S4 into a terminator. However, this approach adds considerable bulk and weight to the device, so that standard cases and docks will no longer fit. Also, third-party batteries aren’t necessarily guaranteed for performance or reliability.

Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX HD

When you peek under the hood, the RAZR MAXX HD has a lot going for it. The most obvious advantage is a whopping 3300 mAh battery which is rated for 21 hours of talk time. That’ll get you through even the most demanding days away from an electrical outlet without having to keep looking nervously at your battery icon. Even better, you get that much power in what’s really a remarkably slim and small package.

The advantages here aren’t just battery-centric. The phone also comes with a solid set of specs to back it up, like a 720P AMOLED display that’s as good as anything on the market, a simple design that’s comfortable to use, and 32 GB of storage plus a MicroSD slot, giving you enough free space that you can haul around just about any combination of business files and entertainment for your travel time.

On top of all that, this phone also offers spectacular signal strength, holding on to a 4G connection better than all but a couple other smartphones I’ve used. Coverage is available in even the most marginal signal areas.

There are a few drawbacks to the phone, of course. For one thing, the MAXX HD is only available on Verizon Wireless. So if you’re committed to another carrier, it’s simply a non-starter.

There’s also the fact that while the battery is nice and large, this battery is also non-replaceable. If you do happen to find yourself in a position where you’ve drained the HD’s substantial capacity, you’ll be tied to a charger until it recovers. There’s no option to carry a spare. Still, that’s no worse than you can say about a whole lot of other smartphones these days.

Samsung Galaxy S IV Active

For some users, the durability of a phone is a big concern. The Galaxy S IV Active is Samsung’s attempt to take this concern to its most logical conclusion, with a phone that can escape the most common forms of smartphone death.

The S IV Active is not fully ruggedized against things like drops or crushing, in the way that dedicated industrial devices are. However, it is sealed against dust and even against complete immersion in water. Consequently, you can use this phone in almost any environment without worrying about wrecking it. At the same time, you’ll get high-end features that a lot of rugged devices lack.

On the other hand, the S4 Active is fundamentally just a version of the S4. It inherits its parent’s heavy battery consumption. Beyond that, a larger replacement battery isn’t an option for the Active model if you want to maintain the waterproofing that’s a main reason for buying the phone. Thus, your options for extending its battery life are limited to an extra standard battery. Juggling two different batteries would require an external battery charger, and some extra care to keep track of both of them.

Ultimately, while the Active is appealing to those need to be out in bad weather or other harsh conditions, it doesn’t offer a lot of benefits beyond the basic S4 model to most users, except being able to shrug off a trip into the hotel pool.

And the Winner Is…

While each of our top three selections has its own set of strengths and weaknesses, the Droid RAZR MAXX HD provides the most advantages versus the fewest disadvantages. It is well built. It also offers spectacular battery life, plus a strong internal radio that’ll hold on to a 4G signal like a bulldog, even in places where you wouldn’t expect that to be possible
It’s true that this phone is only available on Verizon. However, Verizon provices the broadest 4G coverage in the US,as well as robust international roaming. It’s a wireless carrier well suited to those who need access to their data anywhere they are.

All in all, the Droid RAZR MAXX HD is a great choice for the road warrior, due to its reliability, power, and performance.

 

Want to find out more about how cloud computing can help to ease your work life? Check out the “Working in the Cloud” series to learn more.

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